Sen. Rand Paul, possible 2016 Republican contender, to introduce pro-Israel legislation

In a gesture that is sure to win applause from supporters of Israel within the Republican electorate, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Monday will introduce a bill that would stop U.S. aid to the newly formed unity government in Palestine unless certain demands were promptly met, including a cease-fire and a public declaration of Israel’s right to exist.

The move by Paul, a potential 2016 presidential contender, is his latest effort to reassure skittish Republicans that he is a firm supporter of Israel. Last year, he visited with Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and prayed at the Wailing Wall, and he has touted his two votes for sanctions against Iran as evidence that he considers Israel a key ally.

“Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with an entity that does not believe it should exist, and has used terrorist tactics to seek its end,” Paul said in a statement obtained by The Washington Post.

His bill would give Palestinian leaders five weeks, upon the government’s formation, to renounce violence and recognize Israel, something he calls “vital” for encouraging peace talks.

As The Post’s Ruth Eglash and Anne Gearan have reported, rival Palestinian political factions recently announced a “surprise reconciliation deal and plans for a unified government.”

“The deal would reunite the moderate Fatah faction in the West Bank, which has been negotiating with Israel, with the radical Hamas faction, which refuses to recognize Israel’s legitimacy,” they wrote last week.

Paul’s father, former congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.), was known for contesting the extent of U.S. aid to foreign counties. Ever since Rand Paul first ran for office in 2010, hawkish conservatives have dogged him about his father’s views and his sympathy for parts of them, questioning the depth of his commitment to Israel.

Last month, at a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Las Vegas, which Paul did not attend, a number of possible GOP presidential candidates, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida governor Jeb Bush, reiterated their strong support for Israel. In speeches, several of them knocked Paul’s preferred foreign policy — a more noninterventionist worldview — but did not criticize him by name.

Robert Costa is a national political reporter at The Washington Post.

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